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Just when you thought it couldn`t get much worse for the Colorado football program, you were wrong.

The most highly touted CU recruit since -- well, since the last five-star running back to choose the Buffaloes -- executed the longest run of his short career in Boulder on Tuesday when he decided to head out of town.

No lead blockers necessary. No problem hitting this hole. The seldom-used, oft-injured running back cleaned out his locker Tuesday morning, then informed his coaches via text message that he will be leaving the program.

He told reporters he will transfer to UCLA, where he will join his uncle, Josh Smith, another disgruntled ex-Buff.

The official explanation for Scott`s departure is "personal reasons." Closer to home (he`s from Ventura, Calif.), closer to family, etc.

The actual reason, however, is quite clear to everyone who has followed his career since his ballyhooed arrival in the summer of 2008: playing time.

Or, more aptly, lack thereof.

In his season-and-a-half in Boulder, Scott ran for 438 yards and one touchdown on 110 carries. His best game as a Buff came last season, when he rushed for 87 yards on 19 carries against Iowa State.

This year, his best effort came against Toledo, when he ran 12 times for 85 yards.

But fact is, Scott never came close to being the featured back he -- and everyone else -- figured he`d be when he arrived. Instead, he started slowly, had a tough time coping with injuries soon after his first fall camp began, and found himself playing catch-up from that point on.

It didn`t help his cause when fellow freshman Rodney Stewart appeared to have no problems adapting to the college game. While Scott struggled with an assortment of bumps and bruises, Stewart hit the ground running -- literally. The diminutive tailback turned everyone`s head with 166 yards in a win over West Virginia, and he followed that up with two more 100-yard games before his season was cut short by a broken leg.

Scott, meanwhile, never got untracked.

After his 87-yard performance against Iowa State late in the season, CU fans hoped that would be a signal that Scott was ready to "break out." Instead, he missed the following game against Oklahoma State because of an injury, and closed the season with just two carries for minus-1 yards against Nebraska. 

The situation didn`t improve this year. He started three of the five games in which he played, but every time he had what fans hoped would be that big moment, it proved to be a false start. His 85-yard effort against Toledo -- all in the first half -- was followed by a "Did Not Play" the following week against Wyoming because of a knee injury that ultimately required surgery.

The parallels between Scott and CU`s last five-star back are hard to ignore. Marcus Houston came to Boulder amidst huge expectations, but injuries and competition buried him on the depth chart and he ended up transferring to Colorado State.

But there`s a difference in Scott`s case. Houston left because he butted heads with running backs coach Eric Bieniemy.

Scott, by all reports, had a solid relationship with his position coach, Darian Hagan.

Still, it`s worth noting that while the ultimate decision of who plays and who sits belongs to the head coach, the position coach`s input carries plenty of weight.

In other words, Stewart`s share of the playing time came with the strong recommendation of Hagan. While Dan Hawkins has drawn plenty of criticism for Scott not being CU`s featured back, it was by no means solely Hawkins` decision.

No doubt, Scott`s choice to leave is a blow to the CU program -- but not because of the loss of production. To this point, Scott`s production has been well short of spectacular. Anyone who has seen him play has a hard time arguing that he deserved time over Stewart.

But what is lost is twofold:

One is potential. Scott is a physically gifted young man who could very well still blossom into a top-notch Division I running back. It would have been nice to see him reach that potential in a Buff uniform.

The biggest loss, however, may come in terms of recruiting.

The Buffs lost a five-star recruit on Tuesday. Guaranteed, every opposing coach recruiting a prep standout who is considering Colorado will bring Scott into the conversation. They will use it as a tool to steer players away from CU and to their program.

Still, as one CU staffer pointed out on Tuesday, Scott`s decision may help steer another running back or two toward Colorado. Guaranteed, CU commit Mister Jones (Littleton HS) isn`t bummed at the news this morning.

Overall, however, the perception is that Scott`s departure is a huge blow to a struggling program. There`s no denying that.

And like it or not, perception is all too often a reality -- especially in the world of college sports.

Watch CU Buffs Coach Darian Hagan discuss Darrell Scott's departure

Buffs head coach Dan Hawkins comments on Scott's departure